It's hard to believe that pop punk connoisseurs All Time Low have been around for 17 years. From playing blink-182 cover sets to lead singer Alex Gaskarth now in a side project with blink-182's Mark Hoppus himself, things have changed insanely for the Baltimore quartet since their first Put Up Or Shut Up EP, released in 2006 when the band were all finishing up high school.
Now, Alex is married and living on a farm, drummer Rian Dawson runs a studio in Nashville, guitarist Jack Barakat has been writing music through a side project called WhoHurtYou and bassist Zack Merrick lives in Hawaii, regularly leading beach clean-up initiatives and focusing on his fitness. After a few years of writing remotely, the band returned to their roots and holed themselves up to write their newest record, Wake Up, Sunshine, together. It's a sunny and optimistic return to their So Wrong It's Right and Nothing Personal days, a stark contrast to the experimental '80s sounds and production the band trialed on 2017's Last Young Renegades.
But perhaps the biggest thing the band could not have anticipated was releasing their eighth album in the middle of a global coronavirus pandemic. Where in the past the four-piece may have supported an album release with in-store signings, a run of gigs or an awards show performance, All Time Low are in isolation right now, like most of the world. It's an unsettling feeling, Alex explains, but he's hopeful that Wake Up, Sunshine is being released at a time when a ray of light is more welcome than ever.
Let’s not ignore the pandemic shaped elephant in the room – how are you feeling and what are you doing to cope with everything going on? Have you been on a farm?
So okay, it's weird. It's not great. It sucks. You know, I'm sad about everything that's going on and it's a bummer, you know, but it's definitely bigger than us. I'm trying not to let it like, dampen the mood of us getting to put out this record still. I'm very excited that we're still putting this album out. I think the record for us was very cathartic to make and it has us feeling really rejuvenated and refreshed about this band and what our future holds. And so I really hope that people kind of take away a similar sentiment, you know, given everything that's going on, I hope people can grab on to this and find a little bit of relief and find an escape in it and some warmth and sunshine. Not to be cheesy. Yeah, it's a good time to be putting out new music and I think if people can take away anything, I hope that it brings them some joy.
As far as what I'm doing to stay safe and sane: I'm staying home, we're isolating and trying to follow all the precautions and the rules that have been put in place. You asked if I'm on a farm! So we moved back to Maryland from LA last year, and bought a farm. And we've always wanted to kind of get back into it. Yeah, I grew up around horses and my wife grew up riding horses. And yeah, that was just a part of our lives that kind of got forgotten, because neither of us had really the time or the means to like, do it. We've been very, very lucky in that we've been able to kind of fall back into this thing. And yeah, now that we're here, it's kind of actually ended up being great timing, despite all of this happening in the world being awful. We’re at least holed up in a great place and we're keeping busy and it's keeping us very sane to like, just be here and kind of enjoy what we have. I feel very very lucky for it.
So those little baby goats are yours?!
Yeah they are! They’re Nigerian dwarf goats. They’re dope – they’re so much fun.
Do you miss the boys, are you catching up on video chat a lot?
I miss the guys very much in the sense that like, we're not on stage ripping gigs together. Yeah, but no, we've been keeping up on FaceTime and because of the release and everything we've been doing a lot of video press and live streams and stuff and we've all been tied into one another that way. So there's been like a lot of communication still and a lot of keeping up with each other. Making sure everyone's alright, getting through this thing together. Ironically, I feel like more connected to people than I have in quite some time, so it's pretty cool.
It seems like a lot of musicians are feeling super creative while cooped up inside, but I can also imagine that it would also make some people feel the total opposite. Have you been writing while you’ve been home?
I have not been writing yet. I usually give myself a bit of a break after we finish an album, especially leading up to that album's release. I tend to kind of flip the switch and like, want to basically recharge my creative batteries. The record-making process can be draining so it's kind of nice to like change gears for a little bit and then come back to it. But in this case, I mean given the extra time and everything yeah, things are starting to kind of bubble I think and you know, All Time Low’s putting out a record right now, so I'm not sure I'm ready to write more All Time Low music but I'm definitely eager to work on something. There's always Simple Creatures for that. Yeah, we'll see. We'll see what happens.
Obviously Wake Up Sunshine was written in a pre-coronavirus world and so it had no idea what was about to hit us, but I feel like it’s such a positive record that it’s actually come at a really needed time. What are the overarching messages you wanted to convey in the album and do you feel like if you wrote the record right now some different messages would spill out?
Oh, no doubt. I mean, I think all of this would have had a profound effect on what we would be talking about. I think what's great about this album, for me personally, is that it came at a time of like, I think healing and me kind of getting through some of my own inner struggles. And so in that way, the record was very healing for me. And it kind of felt like stepping into the light at the end of the tunnel. And I think in a way, it still sort of fits what's going on right now, which is eerily interesting. There's a very joyous sort of celebratory thing going on with this record. Even when the songs are about heavier subjects, there's still a message of hope kind of and that makes me happy.
My personal favourites are Trouble Is, Basement Noise and Some Kind Of Disaster.
I love that. Yeah, hell yeah. Basement Noise is one of my favourite songs we've ever written for sure.
I remember interviewing you last album cycle and you told me Last Young Renegade had more '80s influences, recording instruments so it sounded more electronic, but this album is back to your So Wrong It's Right, Nothing Personal roots! Was that a deliberate move or did having all of you guys recording together just transport you all back in 2009?
I mean, it was not our intention to write a record that sounded like our old music or anything like that, you know, I think that would be a little safe and boring. But I will say that I think our process and our approach hark back to our earlier days, like you said, making records under one roof, all together from beginning to end. And I think a lot of that energy did shine through on this album. But then that being said, like a lot of the sensibilities we learned from Last Young Renegades kind of were also peppered into this. So I think it's kind of this cool, sort of hybridisation of what we've learned in our more recent records kind of meets the process of how we used to make old records. To me, it's the perfect storm anyway.
When I look at your 2009 contemporaries, Boys Like Girls, Forever The Sickest Kids or We The Kings, they all kind of never made this far. You guys have been a band for 17 years. What’s the secret to you four staying close and seeing eye to eye after all these years?
I think we've been very lucky in that, first of all, like, sort of our inner inter-band relationships have all stayed very strong. Like we're all still best friends, brothers. You know, it's never really been under any kind of pressure. And we've never like internally combusted the way I think some bands do, which is always unfortunate, but it's hard. You know, it is hard. It's not to say that we haven't had our moments or anything like that. But genuinely, I just love the boys and we love what we're doing together. And I think that's really helped us have a strong drive to continue. And then I just think we've been fortunate in that we've manage to navigate the ebbs and flows of the industry. As tastes change, as music styles change, we've ridden those currents as best we can and like, done it in a way that has, I think, always felt authentic to All Time Low, and people have been kind enough to come along for the ride. I think there's a lot of luck involved. There's a lot of hard work involved and everything in between.
I can’t imagine you guys fighting ever – you’re all so wholesome.
[laughs] To be honest, like it's really few and far between that we ever have like a real knock down, drag out fight. You know, like we've never blown up on each other really. And you know, again, that's just because I think everybody in this band tries to keep a really level head about it. And egos don't really get in the way and stuff like that when we approach everything, it's always from a very positive place. And I think that's helped just keep us all happy with each other. I just feel very lucky that no one in this band has like, self-destructed the band!
So I’m loving the social content coming out of you guys, I used to watch the dumb stuff you’d do on Buzznet in 2007 and I feel like TikTok is gonna be the new home for your dumb stuff which I totally appreciate. I saw that Tiger King meme you guys posted… what’s the read from you? Did Carole do it? Is Joe evil?
Okay, so I'm still two episodes behind. I have not finished the whole thing yet. I don't think Carole killed her husband if that's what we're talking about. I think that dude just ran away because he had a history of doing that anyway. And it seemed like, you know, he just up and left and shipped all his gold bars and weird shit to South America somewhere and disappeared on her. And I think then she was just kind of like, ‘well fuck it, I'm left with all this. I might as well live my life.’ I don't know. I don't know that she did it.
As for the Tiger King, I feel like he's definitely got some things going on, you know. I feel for him in the sense that like, how his business was being attacked and stuff was really like, on the line and it was almost like someone was trying to ruin him, which is not ever fun. It's his whole livelihood and I think that would make anyone kind of go a little nutty, but like, at the same time, that dude seems really manipulative and kind of a narcissist and just a bozo, it's not like he was doing things by the book and taking care of his own and stuff like that which always rubs me the wrong way. It's unreal. I like weird TV and that fits that mould for sure. Are you glad that we've spent most of this interview talking about Tiger King?
Fuck yeah I am!
It was so great seeing Simple Creatures at Good Things last year. Back in 2008 at your first Soundwave Festival, you guys were playing blink-182’s Dammit live and now you’re in a band with Mark! Have you gotten used to how wild that is?
I mean, it's very surreal. I owe Mark a lot you know, he’s a big part of the reason why I picked up a guitar and wanted to get on stage to begin with. It's very surreal to be making music with the dude and touring with the dude and all that, but yeah, it's cool. I think it's a testament to just like, if you work your ass off and chase down the dream good things can come of it.